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funkdaddy's avatar

Do you hate surprises? Can you help me understand why?

Asked by funkdaddy (12543 points ) June 18th, 2011

My wife’s birthday is next week. I asked if she wanted a party or just something fun for the two of us. She’d like it to be just us.

So she knows I’ve been planning something. Tonight she told me I’m stressing her out by not letting her know what it is. Not like the fun little anticipation stress that I was hoping for, more like she feels I’m forcing her into something.

I’ve been planning for 6 weeks, have a great day and night planned that I know she’ll love, and really want to surprise her with it all. The last thing I want to do is stress her out with the whole thing though.

Can you help me understand? To me, a great gift that’s a surprise is so much better than the same gift when you know it’s coming. I just want to do something great for her and feel a lot of the little touches I’ve got planned just won’t be the same if she knows they’re coming.

I’ve explained that, answered questions, and tried to reassure, but the stress remains. Do you share her perspective? Would this stress you out? Can you explain it to me so I can try to balance both sides?

Thanks.

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23 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Surprises suck because they take the consent out of things. You don’t have a chance to say “no”. Never underestimate how important giving someone the ability to say “no” is.

For some people, it’s because they automatically assume surprises are going to be bad (like the surprise where your parents are splitting up, or the surprise where you’re getting evicted, etc).

Look, some people like surprises – you are obviously one of those people. But I promise, you cannot duplicate that for your wife. If she doesn’t like surprises, then stop thinking she’ll like this surprise. She’s a different person than you are; embrace those differences. Be respectful as you wants you to be to her, not as you want her to be to you.

I hate surprises. My parents thew me a surprise party once, and it sent me into a giant panic attack. I screamed bloody murder when everyone jumped out from behind the couches, thinking they were going to advance on me with knives and there’d be burglars all about, and it then took me 15 minutes of trying to feel safe in the bathroom to be able to stop crying from being so freaked out, much less get into the mood and have fun and open presents. They haven’t done it since then, and to be quite honest, I’d be ok with buying presents for everyone else on my birthday instead of them buying them for me if it meant I could avoid surprise parties for the rest of time.

rachelnmusil's avatar

I agree with mynewtboots. There’s no option to say yes/no.
Other than that, I think it’s the idea of “no matter what happens I have to act surprised and excited”. Even if they would normally enjoy the activity that you have planned, they’re now being forced into it. They may feel like they need to put on an act in order to live up to your expectations of how exciting it should be. She just wont want to dissapoint you.
Honestly, I don’t care for surprises, but I dont mind them either.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I hate surprises because I like to feel like I’m in control of the situation, and being surprised is a really good way to make me feel like I’m not in control. Of course the surprise is meant to be a good thing, but for me there is always the chance that it could backfire.. and I just don’t like the way that it feels. I try to be prepared, surprises just make me feel caught off guard and out of control, and I just dislike it very much. My friends and family all know how I feel about surprises, and it took years for me to get them to understand. A lot of them felt just like you do, struggling to understand how anyone could not like a surprise. Some of us just don’t. So basically, yes, this would stress me out. I would have a lot of anxiety if I were in your girlfriend’s shoes in this situation.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

If it was truly a surprise and I didn’t know he was ‘planning something’ that would be great as long as it was actually something I wanted too. But similar to the first answer, if my hubby walked around grinning and winking, then it would seriously bother me because I would feel like I had no control over something that was about to happen to me.

wundayatta's avatar

No one ever tried this for me, and I am grateful. The thing is that I generally am not happy with birthdays and to have a surprise party would mean I’d have to act happy and pretend to like things that I probably wouldn’t like.

Your wife has no idea what you have in mind, and that is anxiety provoking. Will there be other people, or just the two of you? Is it a people surprise or a thing or activity surprise? Well she have to perform? A lot of people don’t like being suddenly thrust on stage. People who are outgoing can’t understand that. They live to get attention. Others of us do not like that kind of attention. Especially if we have any mental health issues.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

O.K., I’ll give you an example.If we agreed to have a quiet dinner out and maybe a movie on our anniversary but at the last minute he magically pulled 2 tickets to an awesome concert out of his pocket that would be a good surprise. If he spent 6 weeks saying, “I’ve got something special planned for you…just you wait!” I would not like that at all…and I would tell him so.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I really enjoy the chance to choose. A surprise is forced on you, and it forces you into actions that, given the choice, you would rather not be involved in. But, then, no one I have ever met has hated surprises as much as me. Any surprise involving more than intimate friends is likely to be met with dismay.

AmWiser's avatar

I’m not fond of surprises if I know there’s going to be a surprise. Knowing that plans are being made for me to enjoy something unknown makes me apprehensive. If I have absolutely no clue about an upcoming surprise event being planned, I am more apt to appreciate and enjoy the surprise. The mere fact that your wife know’s you’re planning something, makes her wonder what the heck should she be ready for.

Jeruba's avatar

First, tell me quick: does your planned event involve other people or just the two of you?

Now, listen:

Some people do not like to be in the spotlight. It’s painful and causes them distress.

Some people feel most comfortable when they can prepare. Otherwise they feel at a great disadvantage. Having everyone in on something that’s being kept from you creates a lot of anxiety.

Some people see that surprise events put a person on the spot and often result in giving everyone present a laugh at the person’s expense. They don’t want to be in that position themselves.

Some people fear that they will be disappointed and unable to conceal their disappointment.

Some people know they can’t manage an array of conflicting feelings all at once. For heaven’s sake don’t make her cry on her birthday.

My husband and I had an understanding from early in our marriage that we would never do this to each other. I also had a deal with my closest workplace friend that we would never let each other get caught in an office surprise; we would, if necessary, tip each other off beforehand. And we did. It did not spoil the surprise. It made it bearable.

Your wife has been kind enough to let you know how she feels because she does not want to be angry with you, especially not on her birthday.

If this is an event with other people, let her best friend whisper the plan to her so she can prepare—the right dress, the right state of mind—and still act surprised.

If this is just the two of you, tell her some specifics—where and when, for instance—but reserve some of the special details to yourself. Little surprises within the big one are okay (don’t tell her what’s inside the box), but she definitely wants to know if she should have her hair done or buy a new bathing suit.

Don’t try to balance both sides. You don’t have to understand. Just believe her. If this event is intended to make her happy, she’s telling you that it’s not working: she’s dreading it. She’s upset and suffering. For goodness’ sake put a stop to it.

jonsblond's avatar

She told you what she wants, why make it something more to please yourself? That is what you are doing.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Jeruba really nailed it. That is exactly how I feel.

Hibernate's avatar

I do not enjoy surprises .. they make me feel awkward

lillycoyote's avatar

It depends on the surprise.

funkdaddy's avatar

Thanks for taking the time. I think there may be a few misconceptions (and some relationship advice? Yikes.) but I definitely appreciate the different perspectives.

Just to clarify a few things

- There’s no party or other people involved, it’s just the two of us and she knows that, that’s what she asked for
– she knows the dates, and essentially the times
– Once she expressed concerns, I tried to put her back in control by dropping a card in with today’s mail. It had three options of restaurants she likes and asked how dressy she’d like to get for a night out. She just wants the whole play by play.
– There’s no suffering going on, she said she wants the details, I said I’d need to think about it before just reversing course without thinking it through, thanks to you all for helping in that.

This is my best friend, I want to do something nice and exceptional for her, it’s not me versus her or my selfish desires versus her right to know. We’ll have a great time, I just want to make it special and needed some help seeing her side so I could make the right changes.

I’ll find a fun way to present the plan to her and leave it for her when she wakes up tomorrow. That way she’ll know what’s up, have a couple days to plan, we can discuss anything we need to, and she’s in control.

I’ll just have to find other ways to be charming… Sound good?

augustlan's avatar

I don’t mind surprises, generally. I get excited at the prospect of one, as long as the person planning it knows my parameters (and it sounds as if you do know hers). That said, I completely understand what others have said and I think your new plan is a good one. Sounds like you’re a thoughtful husband. Have a wonderful time!

Jeruba's avatar

It’ll be a surprise when you tell her about it.

You get Great Husband points for being willing to take another look at this and adjust. I hope you both enjoy this event immensely.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Plucky's avatar

It usually depends on the surprise.

My partner likes to do this to me. She will plan out something that is just for the two of us. Something that I know nothing about, other than knowing something is happening. It is hard for me because I like to know what to expect. I like to know if I need to dress a certain way ..like if I can dress comfortably or if I’m going to have to wear something nicer that’s not as comfortable, if I need to bring an extra jacket, what type of footwear.. etc. I like to know what to prepare for. It’s not that I don’t trust her. It’s my own insecurity and routine nature. However, I usually end up enjoying it afterwards. There have been times, though, that I would have had more fun if I knew what the plan was. I really do appreciate her efforts and thoughtfulness; and I know these things are out of love.

She has learnt, over time, that it’s better to let me in on certain surprises (or certain parts of them). Plus, she’s gotten quite predictable over the years.

I understand the desire to surprise ..and certain things even go better with a surprise. What you described sounds lovely to me. Yet, it would cause me some stress. Maybe letting her in on some of it may help. Just keep the little touches that you mentioned a surprise. I know I would want my partner to keep those parts of the surprise a secret.
Some people really do not like surprises though, and you may need to let her know everything. It depends on your wife and how serious her uncomfortablity is with surprises. You are a better judge than we are.

Have you done this type of surprise with her in the past? If so, how was it?

YARNLADY's avatar

Good surprises I like, bad surprises, I don’t like.

Mikewlf337's avatar

As far as surprise birthday parties are concerned. I have never experienced a surprised birthday party. Nobody ever threw a surprise birthday party for me and I never been invited to a surprise birthday party. So I really don’t know if I would love it or hate it. I actually never even had a birthday party in my life.

MilkyWay's avatar

I don’t like surprises because they overwhelm me. I like to be in control of things and surprises mess up my hold or my plan of how things are going. I don’t mind surprise presents though.

Kardamom's avatar

Just because the planner of the party thinks that the idea will be awesome, doesn’t mean that the surprise will be awesome for the recipient.

I hate/dread surprises and here are a few possibilites of things that would be horrible for me:

Someone that I used to date or that I used to be friends with is invited to the party or just shows up. The party planner might think that I would want to see these “old friends” but he might not know that we had a painful falling out and I never want to see them again.

The time and date of the party is unknown to me and I am simply not prepared because I don’t feel well, might have my period, am not dressed appropriately (which would be extremely embarrassing to me) I might not have washed my hair or put on any makeup or I may have failed to trim my scraggly fingernails or I may have a zit. Or I may have made other plans (that the party thrower is not aware of) and I would feel angry or deprived of not being able to go to the event that I had already set up, or irritated that I now have to cancel my original plans (including dealing with all of the details, people, tickets, reservations etc)

The party planner has brought people into my house, when I personally have not been the one to agree that my house is suitable for company. I may not have cleaned at all, or to my own satisfaction (so as to avoid embarrasment) or I may have left out certain items that are not meant for public display. I have not been given the choice of making plans for my pet not to be subjugated to a crowd. And I may not enjoy having crowds (especially drunk or messy or careless people, which pretty much sums up my entire extended family and group of friends) in my house (and that’s why we always go to their houses instead).

I absolutely hate being the center of attention. It’s embarrssing for me. I don’t like people singing happy birthday to me either, it’s disgraceful, especially for women over a certain age. Also, I don’t want people asking me about my age or any other personal questions that I am not prepared to answer (I am more prepared to answer, and turn the subject away from myself if I know who I am going to be dealing with ahead of time).

I’m very organized, and most random party throwers are not. That makes me insane, when I see how a party was badly planned (like they didn’t order enough food, they didn’t make sure to find out who was a vegetarian and who had food allergies, or who doesn’t drink alcohol, or they didn’t have enough plates, cups or utensils).

I would never host a huge party in my home, because I can’t stand the idea of my stuff getting damaged or stained. Most of my relatives, who host huge parties all of the time (and I’m grateful for them for that reason) do not mind/care at all if red wine gets spilled on their carpeting, or if nacho cheese gets ground into their couch cushions or if coke gets splashed onto their ceiling. Doesn’t faze them one bit, but for me, I would rather be in the dentist’s chair getting a crown replaced than to have that scenario.

I also don’t like to have too much noise for too long of a period, do not like to have people parking in my neighborhood where they are not supposed to park (like in the fire lane or on my grass, or blocking my next door neighbor’s driveway).

I also loathe the possibility of someone giving me a gag gift, which they find to be funny or silly, but which I perceive to be lewd or embarrassing. I would die if someone brought a stripper or a bag of dildos to a party for me. And I would find it equally embarrassing if anyone gave me a gift that was ridiculously, inappropriately expensive.

Basically, I am a planner by nature and I just do not like surprises. I don’t like being put on the spot, either. There are enough awful surprises that happen to me on any given day, to which I have no power to control, so I certainly don’t want my SO to give me any more surprises. Plus I am pretty up front about what I do like and what kind of person I am, so it would also be a little bit insulting if I told my SO that I don’t like surprises, but he went ahead and did that anyway. My cousin did that for her Mom’s 70th birthday, and my aunt was not thrilled, she was embarrassed and not feeling well and didn’t look very good on that day. We all warned my cousin not to do it, because we know that her Mom is a very private person, but my cousin thought it would be “fun.” It wasn’t.

Amazebyu's avatar

I like good surprises. Like an unexpected call/reconnection from someone you haven talk to in ages. A job promotion is always refreshing. :)

Bad surprises I don’t like.

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